Here at Electric Liberty, we've written on police brutality and racial injustice in the past, and maybe not very delicately so. In 2020, there is still much to say. If you love freedom, you have to love the words of Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Throughout the past ten years, we've seen so many cases of black Americans losing their lives at the hands of law enforcement. Yes, there are many cases where these killings were justifiable. However, there are also many cases where the killings are absolutely not justifiable. And sadly, in 2020, we are seeing many inexcusable cases of violence against black Americans. Unfortunately, partisan and ideological polarization in the country cause many of us to take a side immediately when we hear about police brutality and interracial violence against black Americans. In general, I see conservatives automatically jumping to the defense of law enforcement, saying that the violence was justified and that the black victim deserved it. Conversely, liberals tend to automatically side with the victim, saying that there is no justification for lethal police force used on black people. As I find myself increasingly moving to the libertarian ideology, I try to look at the facts of each case before reaching a conclusion. In the case of George Floyd, there was no justification for his killing—the police officer clearly murdered a non-violent, compliant man. This case should outrage all of us. And the fact that the authorities did not immediately charge the officer (Derek Chauvin) with killing him reflects a huge lack of accountability in our policing system. It reminds me of some of the first cases where I found common ground with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The shooting of Tamir Rice was an occasion where a black child lost his life (for the high crime of playing with a toy gun) with no charges pressed against the officer who killed him. Then, Eric Garner was killed by a policeman for “resisting arrest” after allegedly selling loose cigarettes. He had underlying health issues, and many times told the team of policemen who were trying to subdue him that he could not breathe. Not one of the officers involved faced charges for Garner's death. For the past few years, we haven't seen so many of these high-profile cases. But, during the past few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, three glaring cases shocked the nation. First was the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. In this case, a retired law enforcement officer and his son exploited a “stand-your-ground” law, pursuing a black jogger and provoking him into an altercation where they claimed self-defense, despite being the aggressors. It was over two months between Arbery's murder and charges being pressed against the father-son duo who killed him. Not even a month after that incident, plainclothes detectives performed a no-knock raid on an apartment, killing Breonna Taylor while her boyfriend tried to defend her with his legally owned and registered firearm. Not only did none of the officers involved face any charges, but Taylor's boyfriend was charged with shooting one of the police officers. Those charges have since been dropped, but its incredible that he was charged for shooting at officers who entered the apartment without uniforms or announcing themselves as police. He was simply exercising his right to defend himself.
From these cases, we can see that a lot of black Americans are being deprived of their right to life at the hands of law enforcement. Are they the only ones? No. Police officers kill unarmed people from every racial group every year. Yes, race plays a part in some police killings, but it's an issue of racism coupled with the unwillingness of police officers to hold each other accountable for these senseless acts of violence. It's a sad time for justice in America where we have to obtain video of a white retired law enforcement officer shooting an unarmed black man (Ahmaud Arbery) and have it circulated in front of millions of viewers on social media before the shooter faces charges. It seems like the only way to ensure that justice is served is to have a public outcry. That shouldn't be the case. Whenever there is an officer-involved shooting, it should be investigated immediately—no paid administrative leave. If an independent investigation shows that the shooting was justified, sure—pay the officer retroactively. But taxpayers shouldn't give police officers a paid vacation for shooting a civilian. This kind of “blue privilege” is why we are seeing demonstrations around the country—to send a message to law enforcement that the days of killing Americans—black Americans, in particular. Many of these demonstrators are simply exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government. Some, however, are turning violent:burning neighborhoods, looting businesses, even destroying a police precinct in Minneapolis. Martin Luther King, III recently reminded us the words of his father: A riot is the voice of the unheard. The Black Lives Matter movement has been voicing its concern for police brutality towards black Americans for the better part of the decade, and have largely been unheard. Colin Kaepernick was dismissed by many (myself included) for his silent kneeling protests during the national anthem at football games. After years of mostly peaceful activism went unheeded, very few police procedures changed, and we are still witnessing unarmed black Americans being slain by police officers on a monthly basis. While I can't condone violent rioting of the scale of destruction we've seen in the past week, Dr King's words provide a very clear explanation as to why it's happening. Not an excuse—but an explanation.
George Floyd was killed after being apprehended for using a fake $20 bill. The message that his killer sent to the world is that Floyd's life was worth less than $20. This is why so many protesters have resorted to property destruction, unleashing damages already estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. If authorities will extinguish a man's life for $20, destructive rioting is a way that protesters can show that his life was worth unfathomably more than that. Again, this is not excuse, but an explanation. And in many cities, the violence has turned into violent assaults—civilian on civilian, civilian on police, and police on civilian. An unfortunate consequence of these protests will be an increased militarization of the police, and a more natural and mutual distrust between police officers and citizens.
Going forward, we need our police forces to be accountable both to us and to each other. Body cams need to be used by police officers to be able to review cases where excessive force is used. Guns really need to be last resort for officers, rather than being the first thing that they reach for. There are many aspects of our policing and justice systems that need to be reformed to prevent deaths of innocent American citizens in the future. Conservatives, liberals, and everyone in between need to work together to make these changes, at the municipal and state levels, because one thing we can all agree on is that police officers should not be killing peaceful citizens. We all need to be aware of the facts that racism is a factor, that unchecked police privilege is a factor, and that acknowledging one without the other is dangerous. Now is a time for our nation to come together, rebuild, and heal. We need to be willing to listen to perspectives that we might not agree with or relate to. Only through this mutual respect and dialogue can we move past our history of racial injustice and unchecked police brutality. Know that at Electric Liberty, we will always be open to your thoughts, criticism, suggestions, and ideas as we endeavor to form a more perfect Union.